BRASIL: Rio de Janeiro & Minas Gerais

Bem-vindos! Here you’ll find travel tips to some Brazilian towns, including my personal experience of travelling there. Brazil has many problems, but natural beauty isn’t one of them. This is my home country and where I lived for thirteen years before moving to Canada, and I go back to visit family and friends about every two years. So, I might be biased, but I’m being honest when I say that, despite the many problems, it’s an amazing country with amazing people, and it definitely should be on your bucket list! But it’s also a huge country, and I myself haven’t visited half the places that I want to visit in Brazil. But in this post I’ll present those which I know best, and as I go back to visit more of them, I will keep updating this post.

First of all, please take a look at my post on preparing a safe and fun backpacking trip, which includes key organisational, packing and safety tips: https://thinkmoveeat.wordpress.com/2016/09/02/important-travelling-tips/

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In Belo Horizonte


Safety and other tips

I’m sure you’ve heard that Brazil isn’t exactly the safest country; our criminality and violence rates top many other developing countries’ rates. You should definitely be careful when visiting the big cities, but most of it comes down to common sense, although some things can be unintuitive if you come from a safe country: don’t leave your items unattended, don’t take taxis alone, don’t walk alone at night if the streets are empty, make sure to know how you’ll get from one place to the other before leaving the hotel/hostel/airbnb/apartment/wherever you are, don’t wear fancy jewlery when going outside, don’t go out with a lot of money on you, try not to take your smartphone out of your pocket/purse when you’re outside, get outta there as fast as you can when you don’t feel safe, try not to speak a language other than Portuguese in the streets (except if you’re in a touristic place, it can make you look like a “naive gringo”)… In smaller cities and villages, it really depends on the place so make sure to research before going; some are very safe while others can be even more dangerous than big cities.

Public transport usually works well in big cities, though usually it isn’t well synced with google maps or any technology.

Lastly, enjoy the amazing tasty beautiful local foods, but be careful with uncooked raw foods and don’t drink tap water!




Rio de Janeiro, RJ

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View from the Pão de Açúcar

This is city is big, vibrant, free, pretty-freaking-warm-and-humid, and extra touristy. It’s a must-see!

I usially stay at a friend’s house in the neighborhood of Ipanema, a great one to stay in. So I don’t have any hostels to recommend, but I know there are many to choose from!

Places to eat: Balada Mix, Delírio Tropical, Japanese Koni, Banana Jack.

Places to go out (in Brazil, bars are made to drink and eat, but mostly drink; you must try the typical Capirinha): Tonemaí, Bathodomeu, Zigzag, Trapiche de Gamboa (great samba bar).

Things to do/see/experience:

Walk in the Rua Visconde de Pirajá. The very famous statue of the Christ, Corcovado/Cristo Redentor, is extremely touristy, expensive to go up, and honestly not that worth it. But the Pão de Açúcar is a very nice visit; not very expensive to go up, there is a stunning view and things to do up there, I definitely recommend it.

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Pão de Açúcar
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The famous Cristo Redentor
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On top of the Cristo Redentor
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View from the Cristo Redentor

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The Museu de Arte do Rio MAR is well-known and although I didn’t visit it myself, I have received multiple recommendations. Same for the Teatro Municipal and Museu Histórico Nacional.

The  beaches (Praias) worth visiting, not only for the sand, sun and ocean, but also for the vendors (try the iced tea Mate and buy cheap local artisanry), are: Ipanema (great spot, though it gets pretty full), Pedra Arpoador (a ‘stone’ or little mountain that you can go up by foot and enjoy the beautiful view and relaxed atmosphere; I recommend going there at sundown), and of course Copacabana.

Rio is a unique place that everyone should see at least once in their lives! There is a warm and adventurous feeling to it; if you can, try to go in February during the annual festivities of the Carnaval!

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View from the Arpoador
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View from the Arpoador
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Samba in Gamboa

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Praia de Copacabana 
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Soccer in Copacabana



Búzios, RJ

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Búzios is a coastal town known among Cariocas (people who live in RJ) as an escape from reality; although it can get crowded, it’s an amazing vacation spot for everyone. You have the option to relax under the sun, swim in the sea, do any water activity you can think of, visit the many incredible beaches, walk in the lovel center, wander in nature… Jsut be careful with lakes and still water on the streets or nature; they’re known to carry the dangerous Dengue mosquito.

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In the center, you must walk in the famous Rua das Pedras, among the multiple bars, clubs, restaurants, and stores.

To me, the best place to stay at is near the city center: the Pousada Armação dos Búzios (Rua Caiçara 10), although it’s kind of expensive, it’s well located and simply amazing.

In Búzios, there are many beaches; the public transport that can take you from one to the other is an unofficial white van which goes through main street (be careful, only get in when there are already people on); make sure to get a good extensive map. My favorite beaches are:

  • Praia Geribá: beautiful but windy
  • Praia da Armação: lots of boats so you can’t really go in the water, but it’s peaceful to just chill there
  • Praia dos Ossos: chill and nice but lots of boats; the restaurant Haka Sucos serves an amaaaazing and cheap Tapioca, a kind of crêpe made of manioc flour where cooks add different flavors and toppings, typically Brazilian and super tasty
  • Praia das Tartarugas: my personal favorite one, the view is breathtaking and the sea is great
  • Praia Brava: literally “the mad beach”; a bit far from the others, pretty small, with a lot of rocks and wind
  • Praia da Ferradura: absolutely beautiful, my second best, the water is cold but calm
  • Praia João Fernandes: cute but small and a bit boring

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Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais

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This is my hometown, so it holds a special place in my heart. There aren’t many attractions or big things to do, but it’s still a great place to visit because 1) it isn’t very touristy, 2) it’s the capital of the best Brazilian state, where there’s the best food, cheese and coffee, the most authentic street bars (Botecos), the best Portuguese accent and the nicest people, 3) it’s pretty central geographically so it’ll probably be in your path to somewhere else, 4) the wheather is pretty good (mostly dry but not too much, 20 degrees in winter and 30 in summer), 5) it’s underrated because no one seems to know about it even though it’s the third biggest city in Brazil after Rio and São Paulo, 6) it’s historically important because there’s where the most important gold mines and coffee plantations were and are, and 7) IT’S WHERE I COME FROM, DUH. Seriously, honestly, it’s a really cool city. But I’m not gonna brag about safety; please be careful there.

Places to visit/walk around:

Lagoa da Pampulha, Parque Guanabara and Igreja da Pampulha por Niemeyer, all three close to each other but not so close to the main neighborhoods of the city.


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The stadium Mineirão, a great place to experience a local soccer game (remember, the best team is called Cruzeiro and the worst one is called Atletico).

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Praça da Liberdade (cool to chill during the day or jog in the morning) and museums around it (Museu de Minas e Metais, and many others) which are free of charge and very interesting, and the Cinema Belas Artes (international movies, cheap, cozy).

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Praça da Liberdade
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Praça da Liberdade

Mercado Central, the huge central market where you can find just about anything, in the middle of the city center (be careful about pickpockets).

Visit the lively and central Praça da Savassi, with many shops, cafés, Lanchonetes (snack places; you must try the local Pão de Queijo) and restaurants around.

Walk in the historical Praça da estação, Av. Afonso Pena.

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Visit the neighborhood Pampulha, and the beautiful and green university UFMG campus.

Visit the amazing Museu histórico Abilio Barreto and the nice green area next to it.

Chill at the Praça do Papa; there’s a nice view, filled with young people when the sun goes down, playing live music.

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The big Parque Mangabeiras is the place to picnic.

Healthy, vegan and vegetarian restaurants: Formoso at Mercado Central, Nascente in the neighborhood Sion (Rua Paraguai), Bem Natural, Pizza Galpão, Nectar da Serra (they serve the best açaí), O Vegano (in the nice neighborhood Savassi).

Bars: people go out to eat at bars, the ‘comida de boteco‘, like the nice ones on the Pium-í Street (such as Almanaque).

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Mandioca Frita at a Boteco

Club: Studio Bar (rock bar, great band covers).

Cinemas: Ponteio is my favorite one, in a huge shopping mall. There’s also the one in Pátio Savassi, and the already mentioned Cinema Belas Artes.

Further outside the city, there’s the lovely green outside art and design museum Inhotim-Brumadinho, a worthwile visit that takes the whole day.

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Inhotim
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Inhotim
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Capivara

 

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A waterfall (cachoeira) outside the city (in Canto das Águas)

Plus, if you do visit the state of MG, you have to visit Ouro Preto, an important colonial town that fills up during carnaval.



Ouro Preto, MG

It’s a pretty small town and you can simply walk all around; I recommend one or two days there. When you get there, get a map and some tips from a tourist office; the activities availale depend on the season and other things. Here are my favorite places to see there:

  • Igreja Tiradentes
  • Igreja Nossa Senhora do Carmo
  • Igreja São Francisco de Assis
  • Minas de Ouro
  • Museu da Inconfidência

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Overall, it’s simply a great place to walk around in, get some local comida mineira (food from Minas Gerais), experience some local Catholic culture and get into the university life of this traditional yet party town.



 

There are so many places to visit in this huge country, and as I keep visiting some of them I’ll update this post; but pleaaase feel free to comment below and give me some tips on other places if you have visited some others!

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